Community Fridge FAQ

 

What is a community fridge?

A community fridge is a non-for-profit fridge consisting of fresh, donated foods that anyone can take from for FREE. It is designed to reduce food waste while also helping those who struggle to access fresh foods. 


Where is the Community Fridge KW located?

The community fridge is located inside Zero Waste Bulk at Unit B - 110 King St S, Waterloo, ON. It is accessible during store hours and is wheelchair accessible.

Our current hours:

Tues-Sat: 10am-6pm

Sun: 10am-5pm

Mon: Closed


Who can take from the fridge? 

Anyone! Though, ideally, we would like those who need it the most to have first pick. The general idea is to take what you need and leave what you can. Please don't worry about taking from the community fridge without any purchase. You are welcome to take what you need from the community fridge, no questions asked. To reduce food waste, we encourage anyone to use up any produce starting to look a little sad, regardless of need.


Do I need to do anything to take from the community fridge?

Nope! No purchase is necessary. No questions asked. If you are on a tight budget and struggle to afford fresh food, we welcome you to use the fridge! You do not need to ask to take food from the fridge. You can simply walk in, pick up what you need from the community fridge, and walk out.


Are there any special COVID-19 procedures?

Yes, we require that visitors wear a mask and sanitize their hands upon entering the store. We request that you bring your own mask, but we can provide a mask for you to wear if you do not have your own. We also request one member of a household come in at one time to pick up items as we have limited customer capacity to ensure safe physical distancing.


Who can donate? 

Donations are stocked in the fridge by individuals and businesses. Donations will be quality checked regularly by staff and volunteers throughout the day. Donations are put directly in the fridge by the donators (or with help from staff and Community Fridge KW volunteers if the donation is large). Please fill out the Donation Information Form when placing products inside the fridge as this is required by public health for us to continue operating the community fridge.


What kind of food donations are accepted?

Foods acceptable for donation: Fresh produce, beverages, baked goods without cream fillings, packaged ready-to-eat foods (without dairy, eggs, meat), shelf-stable packaged pantry goods (though we prefer to prioritize fresh foods due to limited fridge space).


Please note that the following products are not acceptable for donation: Homemade food, raw meat/seafood, foods with damaged packaging (e.g. dented cans, opened packaging), home-canned foods, eggs (unless graded and from inspected food premises), perishable dairy/meat/egg products (unless from inspected food premises), unpasteurized dairy products & juices, alcohol, spoiled/moldy food, leftovers, and partially consumed foods.


Can I donate produce I grew in my backyard garden?

Yes please!

 

Can I donate non-perishable goods?

We prefer to prioritize our limited fridge space to fresh foods that require refrigeration, but we can take non-perishables if we have extra room. Donations of non-perishable goods would be better suited to other initiatives in the community (scroll down to the question about other initiatives in the community for a list).

 

Can I donate non-food items?

Donations of non-food items would be better suited to other initiatives in the community (scroll down to the question about other initiatives in the community for a list).

 

I have a disability and need assistance. Do you deliver?

Yes! We have a team of volunteers that can help pick up and drop off goods from the community fridge. To coordinate a delivery, please email communityfridgekw@gmail.com with subject “Delivery Request” and include the following information in the message: Foods desired, delivery address, best way to contact you, and the day/time you would like the groceries to be dropped off.

 

What is currently available in the community fridge?

For updates on fridge contents, please follow our stories on Facebook or Instagram (@zerowastebulk & @communityfridgekw).

 

How much do your products cost?

All products in the community fridge are free to take. If you are interested in the rest of our regular product range, prices are available on our online store. Note that for many of our bulk products, in-store prices are lower than our online prices.

 

Who owns and maintains the community fridge? How did the idea come to be?

The community fridge was purchased by us (Zero Waste Bulk) and was originally used for selling groceries. It was cleared out and was going to be replaced with a freezer when we were approached by Angel Zolfiqar, a founder of the Community Fridge KW project, asking if we were willing to host a community fridge on our premises. Since we just happened to have an unused fridge in the store, and the idea of a community fridge aligned with our mission of reducing waste and community values, we decided to put our fridge and space toward the project instead of getting a new freezer - at least for a trial run! The fridge is mostly maintained by the staff at Zero Waste Bulk with the occasional check-in by volunteers from the Community Fridge KW team.


What does it take to run a community fridge?

The community fridge is largely funded and maintained by Zero Waste Bulk.

We are a living wage employer, and we pay our staff to keep the fridge in great condition.


Responsibilities to run a community fridge handled by Zero Waste Bulk staff include the following:

  • Cleaning the fridge regularly throughout the day
  • Coordinating, receiving, and stocking large donations
  • Coordinating and packing large donations for pick up and distribution to other initiatives in the community
  • Organizing the fridge throughout the day so products are attractively displayed and grouped together
  • Quality checking and inspecting products put in the fridge throughout the day to make sure they meet our standards
  • Community outreach for receiving and distributing donations
  • Answering visitor questions and online inquiries about the community fridge
  • Proper disposal of waste (e.g. composting foods too far gone, separating packaging, sorting recycling)
  • Taking and editing photos of fridge contents
  • Posting social media updates of fridge status
  • Creating signs, labels, posters, forms
  • Running ads to increase awareness of the community fridge

 

Are there volunteer opportunities?

For volunteer opportunities, please contact Community Fridge KW at communityfridgekw@gmail.com.


Volunteers are welcome to help with the following:

  • Community outreach (e.g. connecting with local food businesses/farms to rescue food waste, connecting with other initiatives in the community to share excess donations, spreading the word)
  • Answering online inquiries
  • Updating social media with fridge status
  • Distributing/delivering donations to other initiatives in the community or individuals that cannot physically access the community fridge
  • Picking up donations
  • Establishing more community fridges throughout the community

For some things, you do not have to officially volunteer to help. For example, we could always use more help with outreach and spreading the word, and this is something you can do without first contacting us. You can also help by taking photos of fridge contents and sharing on social media whenever you visit the store (tagging @zerowastebulk and @communityfridgekw so we can share)!


Can I make a financial donation?

Yes! The community fridge has recently started malfunctioning and is in need of a repair. We are currently seeking donations to fund this repair. Donations can be made through the following link: https://www.zerowastebulk.com/products/donation-community-fridge-repair-fund

If the funds collected exceed the cost of repairing the fridge, they will be put towards community fridge maintenance, fridge equipment (e.g. produce spray bottles, produce baskets), spreading awareness of the fridge, furthering the community fridge project in other ways, or building community zero waste care kits.


How else can I help support the community fridge?

Do your groceries with us at Zero Waste Bulk! As our 6ft-wide community fridge takes up a large portion of our small store, does not generate profit, and is maintained by staff paid a living wage, it would help us (and the environment) a ton if you made a purchase from us. Especially with the pandemic, we had been making a small fraction of our usual sales for the several months we were closed, and are only now starting to reach about 50% of our pre-COVID sales. We are now open for in-store shopping and also do curbside pickup with online ordersA positive review on Facebook or Google is always appreciated as well!

 

How did you start the community fridge?

We had an unused fridge in our store when the volunteers of Community Fridge KW approached us with the idea. After about a week of getting the word out, we started accepting donations from the community. It was as simple as that!


How do I start a community fridge in my own community?

Essentially, you need a fridge, location, and people to help maintain the fridge. At Zero Waste Bulk, we have provided the fridge, location, and staff to maintain the fridge (see the question above about responsibilities regarding the fridge). For further help initiating a community fridge, please contact communityfridgekw@gmail.com.


Do other community fridges exist?

Yes! The idea of the community fridge did not originate from us. They are more common in other parts of the world, but are starting to pop up in more locations in Canada. Our community fridge is the first of its kind in the Waterloo region. We are not aware of any other community fridges in the region at this time.


Other than the community fridge, what other initiatives in the Waterloo Region can I donate to or volunteer for?

Some other initiatives in the community that help feed the hungry include #beautifulsouls Battling Hunger in KW, 519 Community Collective, Food Not Bombs, and The Food Bank of Waterloo Region.


I’m concerned the people who need it most don’t know about the fridge. What about the homeless? Do _________ know about the fridge? I don’t think you have enough reach. How are you getting the word out? Are you advertising outside of social media? I think _______ should be made aware of your fridge. You should give the donated foods to ________.

We realize there are concerns regarding the impact and reach of our community fridge. As a friendly reminder, the community fridge is a non-profit project made possible by f volunteers & the Zero Waste Bulk team and recently launched on August 25, 2020. We have been mostly relying on word of mouth and social media to get the word out as we do not have a large advertising budget.


To be clear, the main purpose behind the community fridge is to reduce food waste by rescuing food that would otherwise go to waste while simultaneously making fresh foods more accessible to those who struggle with food or financial insecurity. The issue of homelessness is outside the scope of our mission, and the type of foods stocked in the community fridge does not always make sense to distribute to people who are homeless without a refrigerator to store perishables or cooking equipment. However, we also work with other initiatives in the community that cook and distribute foods to people who are homeless, sharing our excess food and easily distributed ready-to-eat foods.


If you do not think that we have enough reach, it is more productive to volunteer your time by directly spreading the word to those you think should know about the community fridge. If you think our food should be distributed to a particular group or individual, you are more than welcome to take from the fridge to distribute yourself.


The fridge is not-for-profit, and we have limited resources, so it is much more helpful for you to take action and make direct contributions to the project and the issues you are concerned about  instead of simply voicing your concerns. If you are vocal about your concerns but have not taken further action, we encourage you to reflect on why that is and to volunteer your time instead.


As the Zero Waste Bulk and Community Fridge KW team are a passionate group of individuals, we are constantly generating ideas for how we can do better. Ideas are plentiful, but what is needed is action. Our main limitations are a lack of time and resources. If you think we can do better, we encourage you to be the change you want to see in the world, and offer to help or take action.


If you have further concerns, please contact the team of volunteers at communityfridgekw@gmail.com. If you have criticisms about our impact or cynicism about the project, please read the following blog post: We’re Not Perfect, But We’re In This Together.